New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued an order Wednesday that says businesses will face fines that start at $1,000 and reach $5,000 per violation of his sweeping COVID-19 mandate that requires all private-sector employees to show proof of vaccination as of Dec. 27.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who will leave office in the new year, said he will provide “straightforward, clear” guidance to employers as he pushes the most stringent COVID-19 rules in the nation. He also strived to strike a cooperative tone with businesses that were blindsided by the new rules and said it was an unwanted headache around the holidays.
“If we find a problem, we simply ask the business to fix it,” Mr. de Blasio said at his daily press conference. “The goal is not to penalize.”
The new mandate requires anyone who reports to a workplace in the city to be fully vaccinated and forces children ages 5 to 12 to show proof of at least one dose of a vaccine to enter social venues or participate in extracurricular activities.
The $1,000 fine for violating the order will rise to $2,000 for a second violation and $5,000 for each subsequent violation, according to the mayor’s order.
Employers must keep a record of each worker’s vaccination status, including proof of two doses, and any “reasonable exemptions” they provide to workers. Those records must be available upon request by inspectors.
Mr. de Blasio‘s mandate builds on a previous program, called the “Key to NYC,” that required adults to show proof of vaccination to enjoy indoor dining or performance spaces, akin to similar measures in cities like San Francisco.
The mayor said 90% of adults in the city have received at least one dose of a vaccine but he will forge ahead with the sweeping rule that takes full effect several days before he cedes way to Mayor-elect Eric Adams on Jan. 1. Roughly 70% of the city’s overall population and 82% of adults are fully vaccinated.
“This is the boldest action in the nation. We have powerful new threats, we have to answer them,” Mr. de Blasio said. “We cannot be too late to answer omicron.”
He contrasted his strategy with the situation in Europe, where leaders are resorting to lockdowns.
“We’ve got to make sure that doesn’t happen here. That is why we’re so focused on vaccinations,” he said.
The mayor said he does not expect mass firings from the mandate because people subject to prior rules have chosen to get vaccinated.
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Mr. de Blasio said businesses covered by the rules — restaurants, gyms, movie theaters and others — will have to display a sign from The Department for Health and Mental Hygiene that describes the vaccine requirement on employees and patrons.
All employees must show proof of at least one dose of a vaccine by Dec. 27 and receive a second dose within 45 days if they received the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines.
Businesses griped about the short timeline to comply versus, say, President Biden’s vaccine rule on larger companies that provided a testing opt-out and a longer time to comply — though it is suspended amid a court challenge.
Pandemic-weary residents, meanwhile, took to social media to complain about another layer of rules, especially on children.
Experts said the rules will be an easier sell if the omicron wave gets as bad as some forecasters are saying.
“This COVID thing is going to get bad soon. It’s very tough to promote mask or vaccine mandates when things seem to be getting better. When this rolls out, things will be getting worse fast, and then it will help authorities get tougher,” said Arthur Caplan, director of the division of medical ethics at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine. “I wish it wasn’t getting worse, but you can see curves going up. It’s just clear this new variant will be over us by Christmas to New Year’s.”
Mr. Adams told PIX11 Morning News that he received feedback on the mandate this week from at least 90 business leaders and they were concerned about the speed of Mr. de Blasio‘s implementation timeline.
Mr. Adams said his team will evaluate the virus data and situation when he takes office before deciding whether to keep the rules.
“It’s about the science,” he told the station.
The mayor-elect said he supports New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s decision to impose a mask mandate on places that do not have a vaccine requirement for entry.
“It is a non-invasive way of just telling New Yorkers that this is a serious moment,” he told PIX11. “These spikes are coming and going, new variants, and from time to time, we have to adjust.”
For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.